U.S. Sanctions Lebanon's Jammal Trust Bank for Financial Ties to Hezbollah

The U.S. Treasury Department said that the 50-year-old commercial bank funnels money to families of suicide bombers from the Iran-backed terror group

A supporter of Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah holds a picture of him during a rally, in al-Ain village, Lebanon, August 25, 2019.

The United States on Thursday sanctioned Lebanon-based Jammal Trust Bank SAL and its subsidiaries for allegedly facilitating the financial activities of Hezbollah, according to the Treasury Department, which said the bank funnels money to the families of suicide bombers.

The United States is determined to cut off support in Lebanon for the group, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement, adding that "Jammal Trust's misconduct undermines the integrity of the Lebanese financial system."

Since 1997, the United States has labeled Hezbollah a terrorist group, saying it threatens the peace and stability of the Middle East and is backed by Iran. Jammal Trust is a 50-year-old commercial bank with branches throughout Lebanon, according to its website.

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A senior administration official told reporters in a conference call laying out the sanctions that "we do have a very good relationship with the central bank of Lebanon and we have confidence that they'll take the right action here."

"It sends the message loud and clear that the United States is very serious about disrupting terrorist activity and will continue to take action where we believe it's warranted," the official said.

But the Lebanese association of banks said it regretted the decision. In a statement cited by local media, the association said the move would not affect Lebanon's banking sector and reassured depositors their money in the bank would be fine.

U.S. ally Israel welcomed the sanctions against Jammal Trust and called on other countries to follow suit. "This is an important move designed to generate pressure on Iran and its proxies, which operate against the State of Israel," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement. 

Separately, the United States also sanctioned four individuals for moving money from Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Hamas through Hezbollah.